Walking in L.A.

Antoinette Samardzic, Los Angeles USA

Away from L.A. It's Monday and I'm on a Southwest Airlines plane to Oakland for my granddaughter's seventh birthday. I'll meet my husband and sister there on Thursday (they will drive up and we will return together to L.A. by car). Boarding is a breeze: a mere 30 passengers, all masked, of course. We sit about three rows apart and this is the first time in many years that I have a window seat and am able to observe L.A. as we bank out over the ocean, follow the coast for a short time and then head north over the mountains and inland. Central California is a patchwork of unremitting dull green and brown fields, so unlike the countryside of England for here there are no woods, hills and dales, no hedgerows, no small farms, just mile upon mile of agricultural desert run by corporations. I'm glad when we descend over the marshes abutting Oakland and land.


My daughter and I have not seen each other for four months, which has seemed like an eternity, and she sobs in my arms. My granddaughter is delighted to be able to hug me at last, and also her grandfather and great aunt when they arrive a few days later.


Every city and state has different criteria for opening up. In L.A. we can now dine outside but not so yet in Oakland and its environs. To accommodate the current restrictions of small groups in a social setting, for my granddaughter's birthday she has two friends over for a "pool party" consisting of a blow-up pool in the driveway, the inevitable pizza, cake and ice cream, and the final touch: a piñata, dangled from above on a broom. The little girls whack it with a stout stick until it breaks and the candy comes spilling out. The other grandparents arrive and have an emotional hug with their granddaughter, the first in over three months. Parents social distance with their drinks. The party is declared a success; a fun, intimate celebration and a great deal less work and expense than usual.


The other highlight of the trip is that the goats have arrived on the hillside above the house. Every year at this time an enormous herd of goats numbering in their hundreds, shepherded by Peruvian goatherds and Maremma sheepdogs, are bought in to mow the parklands to reduce fire hazard. Their arrival is heralded by much bleating so off we go to visit and admire them. They are all Nubian goats, mothers and kids, devouring everything in their path like locusts.

Tomorrow we return to L.A


Seriously isolating

Jean, Melbourne Australia

Things are opening up here, but the roll out is confusing. Victorian government advice is still hammering away at socially distancing and working from home if possible, but shops and restaurants can open if they limit numbers and also keep a record of the diners. I had to go to the center of the city this week and saw one of my favourite cafes, Pellegrinis, busting with people sittIng by side on the bar stools. So thrilling to see the place full of life but really worrying to see people being so cavalier. Saw very few people wearing masks in the city. The State Library of Victoria, where I worked for a whole 30 years until last November, is re-opening this month. Staff have been divided into two teams, green & blue, who will come in on different days as well as continuing to work partly from home. A complicated roster. The library is a huge complex of buildings covering a whole city block but only limited areas are opening to accommodate 30 visitors per morning or afternoon session. Visitors will have to pre-book a spot, there is no access to the physical collection, just desk space, computers and free wifi. Sadly exhibitions will stay closed for the time being. My old work mates in Conservation are in the blue team and start back on Monday - I've heard mixed views with some itching to do the 'real work' on the bench, some are just sick and tired of being at home, and most are worried about travelling on public transport. Certainly shared tea breaks in the tearoom will be out if the question as the room is quite small in relation to the numbers in Conservation. If I were still working, this would be a deprivation. This is where, on good days, everyone aeriated their views, did the crossword, enjoyed some seriously good baking or, if you weren't in the mood for all that, you could sit comfortably in companiable silence. Thanks to the lockdown and Zoom, in retirement I get to enjoy the tearoom experience with two 'chats' each week - one group covers crossword & politics, the other conservation, office politics, cooking & family stuff. Which is great since I miss my old comrades.


I also miss my kids - one living in the UK and the other in the States. All the rest of the family (brothers, nieces, nephew, cousins) live in the States too. Australian citizens and permanent residents aren't allowed to travel overseas (tho with some exceptions for essential business or on compassionate grounds). There's the possibility of pan Tasman travel opening up sometime in the future but this doesn't solve the problem of seeing the kids. I am not 'turning a blind eye' to this question of when we can be together but carefully putting it to the side, waiting hopefully for a vaccine, and so on. I try not to think about the 'when' late at night.


What started out as a thrilling step into the wide world back in 1964, with a rucksack, YH membership, a couple thousand carefully saved up dollars and an Icelandic Airlines ticket to Luxembourg and a year ahead to study in London, somehow, through various twists and serendipitous turns and accidental meetings, led me here. Getting on airplanes has been an intrinsic part of life for all those years and the way to hold on to all the complicated threads of family and friends (which fortunately for me includes journalists Mary and Simon and Margaret and Peter). I await, hopefully with patience and fortitude, the next flight, being able to hug my girls tight, and being with all friends and family. Love the idea of a Journal celebration in your garden, Margaret! Many thanks to you and Sheila, what an extraordinary thing you've both done.


Strange times

Anna Stenborg, Uppsala, Sweden

Sad times now, because my closest colleague in Uppsala died from a severe stroke Tuesday last week. He was 74 years old, but only just recently retired. He was a fun and warm hearted person, and an accomplished trombone player and landscape painter. Even after his retirement he had still cared about his patients (whom I had "inherited") and he would come every now and then to the clinic to discuss our research and our difficult cases. 


Now I am back in the North, working in the small hospital, and here my work load is increased due to the Corona virus. In my ward, which is a stroke and general Internal medicine ward, we have more patients than normal. The reason is that the Corona ward only takes patients with confirmed or suspected Corona cases and we now have more again of stroke and other diseases. There is also a cardiac ward in the hospital and a small ICU. So this week I was responsible for the care of 16 patients together with unfortunately not so efficient assistant physicians. One is a whimsical lady originally from Hungary, the other a lady originally from Russia who has a really sulky attitude. But they improved a bit at the end of the week, and the work is challenging and rewarding all in all. Now there is one more week before I go home to Uppsala and continue work before it is time for some summer vacation.


Thin air

John Mole, St Albans



After long walks

a companionable pain


marks your departure

from this slow-coach life,


its brief achievement

achingly endured.


Earned discomfort

is a badge of honour


and a golden halo

for a day or two


so wear both proudly

while they shine.


Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

Oh, how I have missed the routine of preparing a piece for the Journal each day and then sitting with a glass of wine each evening to read everyone’s contribution. 


I hadn’t realised just what an important part it played in structuring my days. However, with my new found interest in Instagram I am delighted to be following several fellow journalists pictorially and can’t wait for Sunday’s weekly round up. Now that the Archers has bombed it will be the new Omnibus!


World news. Awful. Confused.

Housekeeping news. Haven’t really done any!  


Nicola and I have made huge progress setting up our online project and hope to launch our site by the middle of July. Even if we never sell anything we have learned a huge amount!


My husband has bought a wood fired oven for the garden which has arrived on a pallet! I am a huge supporter of his decisions as he is the feast maker, but I despair that it has to be accommodated!


My little VW Up known as The Hornet (named after Clouseau’s Silver Hornet) was collected for its overdue service and MOT and returned the next day with flying colours. Mechanic in a mask telephoned ahead to discuss the hands free handover of keys and paperwork. A box on the floor of the porch manipulated with a foot was his preferred vehicle! We sensed he may be missing Saturday football.


I have always believed in welcoming tradespeople with tea and biscuits. The new etiquette is to offer but not to expect acceptance. Conversations are shorter and interactions more efficient. And everyone already appears to be content with the arrangement. Lots of happy waves and cheery smiles.

But yesterday, completely by accident, I shook hands with somebody. We both got a terrible shock and fearfully looked at our palms as though expecting to have been passed The Black Spot! 


Vocabulary. The English Garden by Laurence Fleming and Alan Gore... a lovely gallop and compression of facts (apparently accompanying a 1979 television series) before we were married let alone had a garden. From it, we have now incorporated new vocabulary into our daily lives. We now refer to the mole as the ‘wicked vermin’ (it is being VERY wicked) and our noisy constant home-improving neighbour as the ‘ill-favoured object’.

Bravo, the journals banner in a green colour. What an inspired choice for this next step on the journey. Green is the colour of life, nature, energy, growth, harmony, freshness, safety, fertility, the environment, and importantly renewal.


I personally could never have envisaged how lockdown would pan out. We both entered it with a certain amount of trepidation. How would we manage if we needed help or encountered difficult problems with no close relatives living nearby. As the questions we had buzzing around in our heads resolved, we both actually began to enjoy the new quiet almost soporific life experience, with days filled with bird song, no vapour trails in the blue sky, or traffic sounds to be heard. However, as the end of lockdown dawns the atmosphere has completely changed to one that is tumultuous, fuelled by anger, violence, and aggression. The initial BLM movement has now been totally hijacked by extremists and counteracting far right characters. 

Who knows whatever might happen next?


Cotswold Perspective

Rosemary, Rodborough Common

Sadly I was unable to manage a post for the final day of Plague20, so belatedly I would like to add my thanks to both Margaret and Sheila for the sterling work that they have both already done. I realise that they took on a large daily commitment, and as we all know Sheila has carried on even though she is on painkillers. I have a personal blog of my own, so I do have some idea of what must have been involved.


Florist in lockdown

Jane, Near Manchester, England

It’s British flowers week, which usually sees us championing locally grown British flowers at the shop. I’ve spent most of the week on the allotment in between rain storms. Non essential shops can open for trading now, and some high street chains have had long queues of customers. A face covering is now required by law when travelling on public transport, and I’ve noticed that supermarkets are selling disposable masks, prices vary- £3 each in M&S , £6. something for 10 in Tesco and £1.50 each from Janet at the local corner shop. I can’t bear the thought of all that waste!


Grace cut my hair the other day, with nail scissors! She did a good job considering, she’s a trained barber, but her hairdressing kit is languishing on a makeup bus, on film set in Liverpool. It was her birthday this week and luckily the weather stayed dry, so we were able to see family and friends outside as they dropped off presents, good wishes and virtual hugs. We ordered a takeaway from the local pub, it wasn’t the same as sitting in the sunny beer garden, but saved washing up! Hope everyone has had a good week, keep well xxxxxx


In Flat N.4

Petra Wonham, Edinburgh

The world has changed a lot since the last time I wrote on here, and not all positive sadly. I have decided to make a list of mine and my parents favourite sounds:


Mother:  First glug of pouring out wine, baby giggling, seagulls, crunch of fresh snow.

Father:  Cat meowing by the front door when getting home from work, yellowhammer.

Me:  Metal rings against china mug, cowbells, wood pigeon in the morning, scissors snipping hair.


Counting my blessings

Sue, Yorkshire

My blessings are increasing. My younger son visited from Bath for a sleepover - in his campervan in my drive. It was such fun and the weather was lovely so we enjoyed all our meals outside in the garden. I ferried bowls of hot water and soap to enable him to wash. We had good walks and talks - although correctly distanced.


My sister is my 'Bubble' so we have now had a cuddle INDOORS! I have at last filled up my car for the first time in three months and even had a brief encounter with the interior of a shop!

My next 'blessing' will be a hair cut and after that... who knows? I'm looking forward to being a lady who lunches again. All simple blessings which now mean so much. Sue


Staying home

Nicky, Vermont, USA

Let me list some blessings for me from the isolation of this virus time: 


  • Not eating in restaurants and not shopping in grocery stores makes it easier to keep to the very low carbohydrate diet that I am committed to because of health issues. Inside, isolated, I’m not fighting temptation. My partner’s non-dairy ice cream doesn’t invite me. 

  • Long conversations with my daughter who is living alone in an apartment. Talking is easier, and we are closer. 

  • A much greater appreciation for my need for people. I used to treasure and crave time alone. Now I am thrilled to see people, even at a social distance. I’m thrilled to see people I know and thrilled to see people I don’t know. And I treasure my friendships which I took too much for granted before.

  • A renewed friendship with Linzy (of Thoughts From the Top of the Hill fame in this journal). We knew each other when I was seventeen but have been mostly out of touch since. Now we email each other often and our correspondence has been a source of solace and new perspectives and ideas.

  • Taking the time to paint. I’m learning to paint the sea, which helps with being trapped far from the sea.

  • The uprising of protests at the murders of Black people by the police, both here in the states, and internationally. It has been inspiring to see the crowds, and to see just how many white people have joined people of color in the streets. And the extreme political pressure placed on local and national governments to rein in police violence.

  • The increasing irrelevance of our president. Someone pointed out to me yesterday that he wasn’t on the front page of the New York Times. Phew. During his administration I have learned a great deal about how the U.S. political system works, but like almost everyone else I will be happy (to put it mildly) to see him and the people behind him out of power. The world will be a safer place.

  • A greater appreciation of the natural world. The bees seem bigger and there are more of them buzzing around the clover in the grass around our house. The two phoebes nesting on top of one of our outside lights hang out on the picnic table and I enjoy their presence even though I have to hose down their perch. Discovering the wood ducks.  Encountering bears. Everything around me seems lusher, more verdant, more fecund.

  • This journal, and the challenge of writing journal entries that will be read by people I don’t know. This journal and getting to read people’s experiences from all over the world, and especially from England. It has assuaged an often present homesickness.


The Runaway Diaries

Sophie Austin

Back to Work


Your dad is at work!
It’s 9pm on a Thursday night and I expect he’ll be back just before midnight. I hope I’ll be fast asleep.


Your dad is a grip and works on filmsets, he mostly focuses on commercials, tiny films that capture the very essence of a supermarket, a clothing brand, or, like today, a packet of sausages. These ads will appear on tele, in cinemas, online and on any moving screen you might come across.


We expected commercials to be the first film sets to be brought back to life, often they are shot over a day or two on location and should make social distancing vaguely possible. But there hasn’t been the flurry of phone calls and days booked up weeks in advance like in the ‘before’ times. It’s all a bit tentative and I can’t help thinking that your dad, along with everyone else who has been encouraged back to work, is taking part in a mad experiment to see what the risks really are.  


But it is work and I’m relieved for your dad. Even if it means that he’s trying to create a hot and sunny bbq scene in someone’s garden in very wet and stormy South London. 


Selfishly, and secretly, between you and I, it has also been lovely to spend the day just with you. I have had your undivided attention and we’ve been able to improvise our day depending on our moods, and the weather. Mostly splashing in puddles and reading stories. Heaven.


I have also been working this week, I never really stop working, much to the annoyance of your dad. Since lockdown started I joined an online playwriting course. We had our final session this week and it felt sadly anti-climactic to wave goodbye to the faces of the other writers I’ve been seeing every week for the last three months. Under different circumstances we would have all gone for a drink and dissected our experiences. We might have exchanged contact details with those we connected to most and kept up with each other as our writing developed. But as I clicked on ‘leave meeting’ I felt miserable; the once weekly playwriting course where we got to imagine full theatres, actors on stages, people watching live moments together, had finished. I was back at my desk hearing you playing downstairs and suddenly it felt like a dream. Had I really done it? Have I just been sat staring at my computer talking to myself each week? All these online experiences have the same effect on me and I worry that without real connection things become meaningless. 


I have just finished a first draft of the play I have been working on though, so maybe I did attend a writing class after all. Silver linings and all that. 


Words know no distancing

A B Lindgren, A Swede in Beaconsfield

Quarantine Midsummer


Here I am. Here we are, in the UK, my little pip family (direct translation from Swedish “kärnfamilj” meaning the very core of a fruit or vegetable in a family) and I. The rain is pouring. My heart is soaring. The urge to fly to that Swedish island where I feel intensely at home, at peace feels further away than ever before. It is further away in a distant future that we currently cannot find an easy end to.


The morning starts with a call from my Mother, she wishes me and the pip family “Glad Midsommar”. I wish her and my Father the same as I hold back the tears whilst we exchange thoughts of what this particular Midsommarafton might entail. The phone goes silent and I slump down in my chair as I dream away to an altogether different version of the Midsommar that is here and now.

My dream is a realistic interpretation of the celebration that is my favourite of all in the Swedish cultural calendar. I love it the most because it is a celebration of humans connecting to nature and nature being part of what we do and how we grow. What grows and what is ready to harvest. What has been planted can be enjoyed by people who have come together to spend good times embellished by live music, dancing, games, snaps, smörgårdsbord, summer cake and more. Much, much more.


My dream is mercilessly obstructed by the doorbell and a delivery of bulk eco washing up liquid. Yes, today, like every other day of late will be filled with cleaning, tidying, cooking, teaching, playing with the children, writing, clearing, cooking, washing up, hoovering, helping others, preparing a snack, dusting, wiping, mopping, reminding children that constant snacking and not brushing teeth doesn’t bode well for optimal dental hygiene…you get the picture!

A perfectly formed tear forces its way down a dry cheek and my son catches my saddened face.

He stops. He holds me tightly. He understands.

At the mere age of 9, he too feels that intense and merciless distance that will not stop reminding you of its increasing depth. A tear streams down his face too. One tear turns into a full-blown river of salty longing for a homeland so far away it’s without reach. There are so many reasons to try to travel home, from ill parents to personal sanity and beyond. There are perhaps even more arguments against travelling from immunodeficiency, complexity, travels bans and yonder.


The day trickles on at a pace I have not experienced for some time. Everything feels measured, meaningless and mundane. Wiping-what for? Cleaning, again, once more. Washing up because I cannot face emptying the dishwasher encore. Teaching with failing enthusiasm and settling for C- in my effort grade. Answering the phone and pretending I am very busy so I don’t need to hold those imminent tears in-too much of an effort today. 

The thought that my children already understand this pain dampens my spirits more yet I try to think it may on some levels bring resilience and strength for future challenges. Let’s settle for that speculation!

A long, tight hug from a 9-year-old when you’re ready to give it all up and walk away, (far, far away), works wonders for your mind, body and spirit. I get up. I keep going. I keep playing housekeeper and tutor. I am an actor after all. I delve deeper and find that inner champion that pulls through every time. That little pip in me that encourages me to get up. Rise again. Never, never, ever give up. Go show them how it’s done and get that cloth whizzing around so that you can do your beloved work and write out your pain once the day is done.


I make a flower garland for my daughter to brighten up today’s online live session with her peers. She is delighted. I am thrilled, this year she doesn’t refuse to wear one (a first!) and this year she is proud of her Swedish heritage. She wants to share it with her class. Proudly she wears her flowery crown, so well. It sits over her perfectly bright, blonde hair so long and wispy from the lack of lockdown grooming. Her toothless smile fills my heart with energy and hope that this too shall pass… but when?

The crown is later recycled for me to wear whilst I walk through the fields nearby with some dear friends (who understood the importance of getting me out of the house today). The colourful flowers sit well yet not as perfectly well as they fitted the face of my very wonderfully fair girl.


We make videos to share far and wide wishing loved ones a happy midsummer solstice. We feel the love shared in return and we smile on the outside all the while our core, where the pips reside, is bleeding.

The tears have dried but the salt remains. A reminder of a pain that will not ease until I hold my dearest in my arms once more.


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Saturday 13th June 2020

I felt a bit weird around Saturday lunchtime with no diary to write and no deadline to meet. It felt like something was missing and I had loads of SHIT to tell you about. My shit mainly as the drains were blocked. For ages I thought Earnie had been doing super strong farts but it turned out to be the drain which is right by the front door layered on top of the farts.

My lovely ex neighbours who are known The Staff came at 8.00 am on Saturday to fix them. Andy has the rods and knows where the drains are as we shared the drive so the lid was removed and a most unpleasant site was revealed.

Later they were all clean and the water ran clear through shiny ceramic pipes. It reminded me of having a bowel scope scan when you can see your unmentionable nether regions but all looked clean, fresh and pink. Not what I was expecting at all. Anyway The staff stayed for some socially distanced coffee and some of the weirdo chocolates in the garden and it was lovely to see them.

In the afternoon I revisited a garden that was absolutely beautiful, dreamy and romantic. It was sold not long after that and the new owners had done a lot of work over the years. I felt like Nobby no mates as no one wanted to come with me so I went on my own. It was lovely but when I went before it was raining yet still heavenly, dripping with roses everywhere and slightly wild but gorgeous. This time if I had had my scissors with me I would have given it a good dead heading. Didn’t stay long so went to Edgefield to get some compost and a couple of flower pots.

Another death of a black man shot in the back by the police in America. Clash of protestors in London. The far right and the mainly peaceful protests of Black Lives Matter. Violent clashes, 100 arrests.



3rd Anniversary of the Grenfell Fire today. Boris is trying to encourage people to go shopping tomorrow.

The Sky News presenter’s hair is getting more and more in desperate need of attention. 



A very good interview with David Lamy on the Today programme. In answer to Boris bringing in another commission to look at inequality he reels off all the commissions and reviews that have been done where none of the recommendations have been carried out. Implement them. Implement them. IMPLEMENT THEM he was practically shouting. This new commission delays everything until Christmas and Boris is banging on about statues. Just implement the recommendations.

Shops open today. Your civic duty to shop till you drop.



A disaster. Roger came and being giddy with excitement at having some one to boss about I was too bossy and he walked out!!! Plant your own f.....g dahlias. NOOOOO

Oh dear, I love Roger and he’s the last person I want to upset. I feel like an unsocialised staffy puppy so I went out and bought him a bottle of Brandy. Lisa said just too much Annabel! Take the brandy but shut up and don’t say anything. So I took the brandy and Roger was in the drive. I’m not going to say anything I said to him and left the bag on the gate post. Then I said, I Planted my own f.....g dahlias and he laughed.



Some friends came for a coffee in the morning and then Marilyn came over and we went to the shop to prepare for Friday. Have had half the shop at home.



Went to the dentist for a filling that didn’t require drilling and then sorted stuff out in the shop. Don’t feel ready at all. A couple of people almost walked in and I said Noooo we’re not open I haven’t got my head round hand sanitiser yet etc. I think I’ve lost the ability to communicate. But the shop was still a mess and I was still putting things out and tidying up. Someone else came in a bit later so I let them in a foot or two and they bought a blanket.

When we got home Earnie seemed really poorly and unhappy and in pain. 

There was a message on my answer phone from Roger. He said he’s coming on Wednesday. Oh Thank God for that. 



Earnie seemed a lot better but I made an appointment with the vet for 4.00. It turned out that all appointments now are emergency appointments. 

I went to the shop this morning and finished my tidying and pricing etc. No body came in except the lady who bought the blanket yesterday brought it back and swapped it for another colour. Oh dear, I can see this is going to be complicated dealing with the public.

We went to the vets and had to wait in the carpark. The vet came out, got Earnie, took him off with a bag of Markies and instructions from me to give him the markie and then do what you need to do. He couldn’t find anything obvious wrong so he took a blood test and said he had followed my instructions with the markies and it worked, he was amused. Half an hour later the vet called and said it was completely fine. I still think there’s something wrong with but he’s much more his normal self. He said to keep him quiet and walk him on the lead. A little later Earnie got his lead and said its time to go for a walk (not on the lead)!

In the big wide world the government have dropped their NHS app and are going in with the Apple/Google one. Laura Kuenssberg says the Tech companies have been less than helpful. They scuppered it.

Around a billion given to schools for catch up for all the children who will have been out of education for months and months by September. Sounds a lot but works out at around £80 a child. The summer holidays school dinner money per child was £15 per week for 6 weeks.

Just saw a little film on the local news about a girl who was desperately missing her dad who was in a care home that was locked down. She had been furloughed from her job so 8 exams and 5 weeks later she got a job in the care home as a volunteer 3 days a week. Bless her. She loves it and will continue to volunteer there.

US Juneteenth commemoration in America. The day marks the end of slavery in USA. 

Trump is holding his first rally since the pandemic started in Tulsa over the weekend completely ignoring social distancing or Coronavirus apart from anything else though he put the day back a day so not to be on Juneteenth and especially in Tulsa, site of a horrific massacre of a black area, Tulsa Race Massacre where a white mob burned down “Black Wall Street”. All 19,000 people will have to sign a disclaimer saying they don’t hold Trump responsible. He says he won’t wear a mask though masks will be given out. There are spikes in America, don’t worry says Trump, overblown. Remember what US doctor Doctor Fauci said. Wear a mask, avoid crowds, coronavirus loves a crowd. 


Overslept! Raced to the shop and was late. A few friends and loyal customers fulfilled their retail urges and shopped for Britain. I relaxed a bit and my friend Char picked up a pair of tongs for touching the various things. Brilliant solution. So we will have 2 pairs of tongs in the door that I can spray and then you can turn things over etc.
I am now really late for my piece!! Sorry Sheila and Margaret and sorry it's a bit of a novella.

Love Annabel xxx

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